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This Day in History: Pedro Cano, WWII Hero

On this day in 1952, a World War II hero is tragically killed in a car crash.  It’s been said that Pedro Cano “seemingly was an unremarkable man who did remarkable things during World War II.”


For starters, Cano was not a big man. At just over 5 feet tall, he’s been described as “pint-sized” and “slightly-built.” Yet what he lacked in size, he made up for in determination. He’d used his small size to crawl under enemy fire, risking his life for his fellow soldiers.


Private Cano’s Medal action came over the course of two days in December 1944, as the young soldier served near Schevenhutte, Germany.

Cano’s unit had become pinned down by enemy fire that day. What was going through the young soldier’s head as he leapt into action? He was armed with a rocket launcher, so he grabbed it and crawled through a “densely mined area,” as described by his Medal citation. When he was just ten yards from the closest enemy emplacement, he fired, singlehandedly taking out all 7 Germans inside.


He’d soon turned and made his way to a second position. He took out that emplacement, too.


Would you believe that Cano did this, repeatedly, over the course of two days? He ultimately destroyed six enemy emplacements, killed 30 of the enemy—and he lived to tell the story.


As if that were not enough, Cano engaged in another action not mentioned in his Medal citation: Several days after these events, his platoon was surprised by a German force.  He was seriously injured in that attack, but he simply lay, motionless, waiting for the Germans to get closer. When they were within range, he threw a grenade, killing or wounding them all.


Cano survived the war, but he carried permanent injuries home to Texas.


He’d been living there since he was a baby, although his family was from Mexico. Perhaps because he was foreign born, Cano was initially given a Distinguished Service Cross for his heroic action. He didn’t want awards, though. All he wanted was to become an American citizen.


He’d asked some of his officers during the war, but he was told that they were too busy fighting Germans to help.


In the meantime, Cano’s local community was outraged that he’d received a Cross instead of a Medal. Not only that, but the Cross had been sent in the mail! His community managed to get military officials to come to Texas for a pinning ceremony.  But Cano was much more impressed with what happened in May 1946: He finally got his wish to become a citizen.


Not too long afterwards, he got a GI loan and bought a farm. Citizenship and his own farm were the two things he wanted most.


Sadly, Cano was killed in a car accident several years later, in June 1952. Would he have cared that his Cross got upgraded to a Medal in 2014?  Maybe not, but the move meant a lot to his kids.


“It feels good that people remember him,” one of his daughters concluded. “It’s keeping him alive.”

 Enjoyed this post? More Medal of Honor

stories can be found on my website, HERE.


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